DCFud was lucky enough to be given an opportunity to interview Spike Mendelsohn, former Top Chef contestant, and the man behind We the Pizza and Good Stuff Eatery. Spike is teaming up with MasterCard and SunTrust (side note: if you have a MasterCard, check out www.mastercardmarketplace.com/suntrust for some fantastic deals from now until the end of year… plenty of gifts for the foodie or chef you need to buy for! And if someone wants to buy me that KitchenAid tabletop mixer or a new knife set, you can find them at a good price here.) This is holiday season, and they were kind enough to donate $5k for Spike’s favorite charity, Horton’s Kids, a Northeast D.C.-based charity designed to provide tutoring, mentoring, enrichment, advocacy, and family support to underprivileged children. In fact, “Santa Spike” will be heading over to Horton’s this afternoon to drop off presents.
Since the majority of people ask Spike about his time on Top Chef, I figured I wouldn’t, and I’d ask questions that I, as well as friends of mine, wanted to know. Unfortunately, my voice recorder was man-down, so the conversation isn’t verbatim, but it’s pretty darn close!
JS: Best foodie gifts?
SM: Omaha Steaks.
JS: What about vegetarians?
SM: Omaha Steaks!
JS: Favorite thing to make for the holidays?
SM: Apple pie.
JS: Oh, yum. Any specific type of apple?
SM: Not really. I’ll mix it up based on the season. You just need apples that aren’t going to make the pie crust soggy, and you can do that by tossing the apples in brown sugar and white sugar and then draining the excess water. The key is to not cook the apples before you make the pie.
JS: Yum. And that covers my next question, which were holiday cooking tips. Thank you.
JS: Food fad you wished would be over?
SM: Cupcakes. I know those cupcake girls are gonna hate me, but cupcakes.
JS: Have you ever been a fan of the cupcake fad?
SM: Not really.
JS: Do you not eat cake?
SM: I like chocolate cake. Chocolate cake with chocolate icing. I like simple foods.
JS: Fantastic… leads me to my next question!
JS: Favorite thing to cook for yourself?
SM: Sandwiches. Or roast chicken with lemon potatoes.
JS: Do you make your own bread?
SM: Not really, but sometimes I make Greek bread for the holidays.
JS: Foods you despise cooking or eating?
JS: That’s it? Really?
SM: I eat everything. Except liver.
JS: You’re from Canada… what’s the possibility of putting poutine (fries covered in cheese curds and gravy) on the menu?
SM: Actually, we’ve had it on occasion.
JS: Really? When’s the next time it’ll be back? Canada Day? Boxing Day is coming up, so maybe then?
SM: Sure, Canada Day, but it’s also a good cold weather comfort food. Fries… cheese curds…
JS: Covered in gravy. Lots of gravy. Yeah, yum.
SM: I’ve had people ask for it, but Americans don’t really know about it. I was just in Canada, so I had plenty of poutine up there.
JS: Guilty food pleasure?
JS: Ooh, spicy?
SM: Nope, original. With the biscuits. And Chik-Fil-A.
JS: Good answers.
JS: What do you like about being a chef in DC?
SM: The opportunity. Everything in New York has already been done, so it’s nice to be here and be able to start new trends.
JS: What do you always have in your pantry and/or fridge?
SM: Fish sauce.
JS: Haha. My mom is Thai so we always had that in the house.
SM: A little bit goes a long way!
JS: So does that smell! Anything else?
JS: That’s a good combination. Cornflakes and fish sauce.
SM: Oh yeah, you should try it sometime.
JS: I’m sure it’ll get you going. Anything else?
SM: Sriracha sauce, herbs/spices, and Greek olive oil (he brings it from Greece).
JS: Favorite celebrity chef?
SM: Anthony Bourdain.
JS: Do you drink?
SM: A little.
JS: Beer, wine, or liquor of choice?
SM: Hendrick’s and tonic.
JS: Favorite dish as a child?
SM: My grandmother’s keftedes (Greek meatballs).
JS: Do you make them yourself now?
SM: I do, but I like them more when she makes them.
JS: Where do you go out to eat in the city?
SM: Obelisk; Star and Shamrock, the new place; Zaytinya; and, Bistrot Du Coin
JS: Favorite dish to make for a girlfriend?
SM: Grilled chicken. Keeping it simple.
JS: Do you use a rotisserie or the oven?
SM: The oven. I broil it. Cook it in the oven at about 350°, and turn it to broil for the last half hour.
JS: Sounds good. I’m stealing that, so thank you.
JS: Do you drink coffee?
JS: Where’s your coffee source in D.C.?
SM: Peregrine . And Starbucks.
JS: So what’s the end of the year plan for you?
SM: Well, tomorrow’s my birthday.
JS: Wow, happy early birthday! How are you celebrating?
SM: Moving today. And then taking the family to Puerto Rico.
JS: Worst customer stories?
SM: Hmmm… I’m trying to think of something funny… Back at our family restaurant, I worked in the back for a bit, and then was able to work as a host. One night, a very attractive woman came in with a man, and I sat them. The next night, the same woman came back, but with a different man. I said to her something along the lines of, “Good to see you again. Guess you must have really enjoyed that meal to come back today.” She turned beet red. Turns out she was an escort.
JS: Haha. That is awesome. And awkward. Good story.
For my first interview for DCFud, I definitely lucked out with Spike. He was a blast to interview and is obviously a fantastic chef. In fact, I was eating the White Pizza (so garlicky and delicious) from We the Pizza as I wrote this article. The keys may have a little grease on them, but that’s ok